Need More Reasons to Ride? 2 Studies Show Cycling Reduces Effects of Aging

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By Charles Pekow — We don't need to be told that cycling provides good exercise and exercise is healthful. But a new study says that it can help preserve your immune system as you age. It found that adults aged 55-79 who had been cycling most of their lives maintained better immune systems than their peers who hadn't been exercising regularly and were just as good as younger ones in some ways.

The study noted that previous research has concluded that immune systems weaken as we age, leaving people more vulnerable to infection and inflammatory disease. But scientists hadn't adequately looked at the effects of exercise on retarding the decline. Overall, older cyclists did lose some immunity, but not as much as sedentary peers.

The study, entitled Major Features of Immunesenescence, including Reduced Thymic Output, Are Ameliorated by High Levels of Physical Activity in Adulthood, appeared in the March issue of Aging Cell, a periodical of the Anatomical Society.

If you want to take a look at the scientific gobbledygook (sample line: “Compared with their less active counterparts, the cyclists had significantly higher serum levels of the thymoprotective cytokine IL‐7 and lower IL‐6, which promotes thymic atrophy), see https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acel.12750. Also, remember that one study doesn't definitively prove anything.

Another new study, meanwhile, indicates that cycling to work may prolong your life, though it doesn't factor in the chances of being killed by an auto. Instead, it says if you bike totally or part of the way to work, you're less likely to die from cancer, heart conditions or other causes.

The research, done in the United Kingdom; Association between Active Commuting & Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer & Mortality: Prospective Cohort Study appeared in the BMJ (originally British Medical Journal): https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456.

The researchers say they controlled for other factors, including sex, ethnicity, age, other exercise, smoking, etc. Cycling to work proved more beneficial than walking to the job, though walking provided some benefits. The study didn't determine cause and effect, other than to note that people who exercise tend to stay healthier than those who don't.

The study recommends that “(p)olicies designed to affect a population level modal shift to more active modes of commuting, particularly by cycle (e.g., cycle lanes, city bike hire, subsidized cycle purchase schemes, and increasing provision for cycles on public transport) may present major opportunities for the improvement of public health.”

 

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